A new study in the medical journal, Pediatrics, is alarming parents across the country who have kids who snore. The study found that children who snore at the age of two or three are more likely to display behavioral problems later on in childhood than toddlers who do not snore.
The behavioral problems include hyperactivity, depression, and attention disorders. The one factor that may protect children against snoring and later on behavioral problems is breastfeeding.
The data in the Pediatrics study was culled from 250 mothers who answered questionnaires pertaining to their children's snoring habits when they were 2 and 3 years old.
The mothers were also asked to complete behavioral assessments of those children. The results of those questionnaires showed that children who snored loudly at the age of two or three at least twice a week had worse behavior scores than children who never snored or those who ceased to snore by the age of three.
The authors of the study concluded that snoring in a toddler can be a form of sleep apnea where the child actually stops breathing for a few seconds.
The snoring, or sleep apnea, creates disordered breathing and can have an effect on learning and neurological development of the child, hence the prevalence of behavioral issues. The study authors surmised that the lack of sleep can fundamentally alter a growing toddler's brain.
Since this study received their data from the mothers self-reporting, there was no objective data that was recorded such as the children's oxygen levels.
Therefore the study could not determine if the behavioral problems were caused by snoring significant enough to cause a chronic lack of oxygen to the brain or if the problems were just a result of the child being chronically tired.
The study also found that race, a lower socioeconomic status, exposure to smoke, and a shorter length of time being breastfed independently, predicted that a child would snore.
The bottom line is that while snoring is pretty common among toddlers, it is not normal for children to snore chronically in the absence of respiratory or sinus infections.
Children who snore more than a couple times each week for longer than a month as toddlers should see their pediatrician and be evaluated.